Malnutrition is the nutritional condition of the body that occurs due to the imbalance between the intake and the demands of the body for a particular nutrient. Malnutrition is the major area of concern among the population living below the poverty line both in urban as well as in rural areas.

Defects of malnutrition:

The World Development Survey (2000 to 2001) explains malnutrition as a situation resultant of low income, low consumption, low consumption, and low achievement in education, health, nutrition, other social necessities, powerlessness, voicelessness, vulnerability and fear. During the past twenty years the percentage of per capita expenditure on food item has been on the decline both in rural and urban area in India. Also, there has been a corresponding increase in the percentage of per capita expenditure on non-food items.

As per the World Development Report (2000 to 2001), 36.7% rural and 30.5% urban population in India lived below the poverty line. One could say that out of the estimated 100 crore people about forty crore are poor. Poverty largely explains the high level of malnutrition in India. It is an irony that Food Corporation of India’s godowns is filled with wheat and rice, but masses do not have easy access to adequate grains. Thus over seventy percentage of population consume insufficiently.

Malnourishment leads to various types of diseases. Over 100 million Indians go to bed with hungry stomach. No wonder, therefore, that the prevalence of nutritional deficiencies in the rural population is extremely high.

Prevalence of nutritional disease:

People living in rural areas are most commonly affected by the nutritional deficiency diseases. Some of them are conjuctival xerosis, corneal xerosis, protein energy malnutrition, growth retardation, anemia, and pellagra. It can be inferred that poor environmental hygiene conditions play a very important part in undermining the nutritional status of village population. It has been stated in a recent study that the simple correction of anemia in village children did not bring about a fall in the rates of diarrhea and respiratory infections because of poor environmental hygiene.

The severest effect of malnutrition on slum population is exhibited by a very high infant mortality. In a survey conducted in Calcutta, then out of every sixteen babies born in slums were found to die soon. In another survey, high degrees of prevalence of hypovitaminosis A and Protein Energy Malnutrition and nutritional anemia were found. Keratomalacia was found to be particularly prevalent in the slums.

The main factor behind the low nutritional status of the slum population is reduced food availability due to the low purchasing power. In contrast to their rural brethren, the urban slum dwellers have to purchase every item of food out of their earnings and a large part of the income goes to the unavoidable non-food items. Poverty occurs mainly due to the lack of resources and ignorance.

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